2009 Lindian Walkways
In this article published in Perspective Magazine Nov-December 2009 I describe in text and sketches the ancient village of Lindos on Rhodes Island.
Knowing and loving Lindos isn't about any grand architectural masterpiece. No. Instead it’s about building a small scale and intricate mental map, where kinks, twists, corners and bends in streets the width of a corridor link between squares sometimes as small as a sitting room. Where a 17c captain’s house is as likely to be a pub or your accommodation as it is to be a protected national monument and where vistas reappear to remind one of the relationship between the village, built on the remains of a Dorian City, and the Ancient Greek, Roman and Medieval Acropolis which towers above. And where while sitting sketching in the street you can be asked ‘Can you tell me where the exit is?’.
Lindos is a small village on Rhodes Island at the outer reaches of Greece and just a short distance from Turkey and while it was once remote and impoverished it now, with 600,000 visitors annually, competes with Delphi as the second most visited Archeological site in the whole of Greece.
An important element of a Lindos trip is leaving the world of the motor car behind so make sure you stay in old Lindos where Shanks Mare reigns supreme and not the surrounding hotels and accommodation which dwell on the 'outside'..
Try to rent a house in the old village rather than running with a package deal. The part of the village with views over the main beach is quieter, both by day and night. And as with all southern European destinations avoid traveling mid summer - it's just too hot.
Unfortunately the direct flight from Belfast ended with the collapse of XL Airways. Instead a trip through England is required. Consider a taxi from the airport rather than a tourist bus if you're getting in late. It'll take an hour off the journey and could get you in on time for a rooftop dinner at Kalypso or a late night drink at Georgos.
The village resides in a valley between the mainland and the acropolis which projects into the Mediterranean. It links between two natural harbors and beaches at St Paul’s Bay and Lindos Bay. Lindos, while a village in population and dimensional terms is a city in urban form terms. Buildings abut the edge of the street and typical height to width ratios are 2/3:1 in a settlement where maximum building heights are set at only two stories.
The whitewashed Labyrinth of little alleyways were reputedly designed to confuse pirates. Today the layout provides shelter to the sketcher from the hot sun while providing escape from the throngs of latter day invaders with tourist shopfronts sometimes only a few metres away.
Lindos was a major centre of power in ancient times reputedly having a population of 17,000. Significant monuments remain from this period including the Greek Temple on the acropolis, the ancient amphitheatre in the village, the tomb of Kleovoulos, one of the seven wise men of Ancient Greece, and the Archokrateio burial site. The Romans arrived and complemented the temple with one of their own. In the village below a series of small Byzantine chapels were constructed each a lesson in boolean operations. The 13-14th centuries saw a further period of construction on the acropolis with its occupation by the knights.
Boolean Byzantine, St George Chostas
The 16-18th Centuries, with Lindos bay acting a major centre of navigation and shipbuilding saw the construction of grand stone built captains houses in a fusion of medieval, Byzantine and Arabic Styles.
Amongst these interventions rested the traditional architecture of the populace. These are small stone built buildings with timber and earth roofs which as with all vernacular architecture provide lessons for a sustainable future in their subtle construction and material selection and properties.
Into the twentieth century Lindos had little in terms of natural assets. Much like our west coast it was remote from the centre of power and by the 1950s Lindos was in poverty. Families had begun to sell homes to a first influx of post war adventurers.
The potential harm that could be caused to the village by overdevelopment was recognised by Athenian Architect Nikos Hadzimichalis who had been working with the first influx of Italians and the restoration of their historical properties. He had become passionate about the village. Working with the Head of the Rhodes Branch of the National Archaeological service pressure was placed on the Greek Government leading in the late 1950's to the village and its context being protected at a national level and a development plan being prepared.
Figure Ground, Belfast & Lindos Centres
The result of this strategy is clear today with the resident population of 700 - 800 having remained fairly constant while the population swells massively in the summertime with the influx of tourism.
The village has grown but in a manner reflecting the ancient street pattern which remained even after decline. Old properties have been renovated, planning restrictions continue and new development reflects the character of the original village.
Overall Katerina Giatra of the Mayors Office recognises the positive impact that tourism has had on the preservation of the archeology and historic character of the village. She cites the very early adoption of the conservation policies as being critical in this respect. The previous poverty has been removed but not at the loss of the historical character but rather because of its conservation. But, some of that attraction of a place on the edge, in a similar fashion to the west coast of Ireland, is inevitably lost. The conservation principle of reversibility howevwe pervades and Lindos returns to being a small traditional Greek village outside of the tourist season.
There’s something about getting to know a place intimately that means you experience everything at once. That the place you sit sipping a coffee looking onto a small square exists in the context of the ‘wedding cake’ view from floating in the bay of the acropolis with the layers of sea, sand, scrub, whitewashed buildings, conifers, rock face, medieval walls and the temple peeping over. And with the scale of a village you can rightly assume that the guy who gives you coffee knows every other local you've met.
As a place to sketch and draw Lindos isn't about grand buildings, the dimensions of the streets don't warrant attention to the elevation as the grand architectural statement. Instead it suggests attention to geometry, of the overlapping forms and the undulating streetscape punctuated by little architectural incidents.
So for me Lindos is now an activity destination, where discovery becomes detailed rather than superficial and where the simple meditative engrossment of translating geometry and tone to paper provides its own rewards.